Last Monday evening, I commenced this fatuous weekly project in earnest, disclaiming that “I seem incapable of writing intensive, carefully-reasoned longform essays these days.”
What to do?
Instead of remaining in an arrested state of nonwriting, I decided to “lift my long silence, compromise my most sacrosanct self-imposed standards, and offer a simple, shallow, incoherent, and rambling bullet-list of my contrarian musings and mind-mumblings each Monday evening.”
This evening, I introduce No. II, the serial-title below will be a recurring topical catchall sort of sub-series, this week admittedly still dominated by angsty political tripe.
I created this sub-series, because I have several other standalone formats in my mind cavity that I would like to introduce sporadically. Enjoy. Or don’t.
N.B., I got tired of illustrating this piece halfway through, so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Politics, Religion, Sex, Drugs, Rock ’n’ Roll, Bullshit, Stuff, Claptrap, Eyewash, and Things the First *
* I Apparently Like to Touch the Third Rail, Stupid Masochist
POLITICS: Last week, I dedicated my Monday evening musings to a variety of BEEFS I had with the Democratic National Convention in medias res. My thoughts now that the DNC and the democratic nomination have wrapped up are fewer, but no less critical. ¶ Everyone is celebrating the successful panache of the DNC — in contrast with the dumpster fire that was the Republican National Convention — on the left and in the leftward mainstream media, save for the usual token suspects. I intend not to let the complacency of reported victory spoil my vision. ¶ The DNC was an exquisitely orchestrated clusterf—k, which was incidentally a very upliftin’ and razzle-dazzlin’ clusterf—k, but a cluster—k no less.
Despite its ostensible demographic diversity, the DNC was as ideologically procrustean as any like gathering of Republicans. This was less evident from the broadcasts than it was from media elites and their mockingbird party loyalist subscribers on Facebook and Twitter.
“What we are hearing tonight is substance and not soundbites,” one gentleman quipped. Hmm… In truth, I think, we are hearing little more than rhetorically sophisticated soundbites, skillfully delivered but no less insubstantial. ¶ We are seeing the masquerade of substance in an effort to induce conformity of message and suppress internal dissent, harsh though that may sound, so as to present a united front against the surprisingly persistent popularity of T____ and unpopularity of Clinton. ¶ Well, some people insist that the persistence is “surprising.” These techniques of the speechwriters, tacticians, strategists, however, are not quite the same thing as actual substance, self-soothing though it may be to believe as much.
The messaging at the DNC was tight and the delivery was masterful. The Democratic Party might very well have a monopoly on orators of a caliber little seen these days. At the same time, political oratory, however well-delivered, is generally vapid. Off the top of your head (be honest), what is the most memorable line that Barack Obama, well-regarded for his oratory, has delivered? A second? A third? ¶ Michelle Obama’s opening speech was variously described as “powerful,” “stirring,” “winning,” “iconic,” and “memorable.” The commentariat nearly lost its mind over the “vital” line that “will go down in history,”
I wake up every day in a house that was built by slaves.
Everyone seems to have forgotten the apparently less memorable line that was circulating social media a few weeks before the convention, the very same line that Ms Obama self-plagiarized in her DNC speech, delivered to graduating students at City College of New York. ¶ That does not lessen its impact and truthfulness, but we need to reädjust our partisan blinders. Politicians and their surrogates deliver soundbites and schtick, even the one’s we most love.
But what was the messaging at the DNC? It was a gushingly patriotic pæan to American exceptionalism. Obama has ironically weaponized the “shining city on a hill,” remolded in centrist language, against T____ and his ilk. ¶ This is not a substantial thing, this is a tactical thing. America need not be made “great again.” However, America is neither presently “great” nor has it ever been “great.” At least, if by “great” we continue to imply a greatness so far and beyond exceptional that it is morally imperative that we dominate and arbitrate world affairs. At least, if by “great” we mean erasing the lived realities of that 80 per cent of the country who has seen their fortunes worsen not improve over the last several decades.
The star-spangled jingoism of the party of Reagan has been coöpted by the Democratic Party and instead of staring queerly, quizzically, and questioningly at the performance before us, we applaud. How can we see with sequins in our eyes? Or not be diverted by Bill Clinton’s childlike wonder at realizing balloons are made of magic? ¶ Less than six months ago, 1990s DLC third-way neoliberalism was declared dying or dead under the stark, grassroots criticism of the new left — the burgeoning revival of Labor Movement, New Deal, Great Society, Poor People’s Campaign, Rainbow Coalition Democrats in Bernie Sanders and his diverse, youthful movement of moderate leftists. Everything old is new again. Surprise, surprise. ¶ Now, however, neoliberalism’s false prophets rather than retrenching are becoming increasingly entrenched. The DNC was a self-congratulatory display of elite rot oblivious to the socioëconomic populism — spectrum-wide — sweeping the western world. ¶ It was an essay in tone-deafness.
The facts seem to suggest, to the contrary, that our false center will not hold. If there is anything that we can learn from Cameron’s centrist defeat in outcome of the #Brexit referendum is that this is a political season of surprises. A year ago, no one believed T____ would make it past the Iowa Caucus, no one imagined that he was anything but a flash in the pan. ¶ However, rather than counteract the Western rise of far-right demagogic movements with center-left populist movements rooted in solidarity rather than scapegoating, Democrats have simply decided that the same-ol’ same-ol’ (but more of it!) gives us a fine tactical advantage. ¶ Democrats may very well win the White House in November, by what margin is uncertain. That should concern everyone who ostensibly believes that the Republic must endure despite partisan politicking. If they do not win, which there is no reason for us believe they will by default, it will because of a gargantuan failure to read the writing on the wall and respond accordingly.
Democratic decadents with their cocktail-party cocoon of condescension and complacency natheless proceeded apace, choosing to mock and ridicule protestors airing legitimate grievances for the sake of a quasi– party unity that was never at risk. ¶ The DNC could have toned down the party loyalism and focus their efforts on appealing to the 42 per cent of eligible voters so disenchanted with bipartisan corruption from special interests that they self-identify as independents, irrespective of their affiliation. ¶ Instead, they slammed the door that Sanders opened to independents, doubled-down on neoliberal economics, and offered insipid affirmations of progressive social policy commitments while cloaking themselves in elitist trappings.
9 in 10 Sanders voters will support Clinton in November, according to reliable polling from the Pew Research Center. For some perspective, let’s remind ourselves that only 6 in 10 Clinton supporters in 2008 — the soi disant PUMAs, Party Unity My Ass — said they would support party nominee, Barack Obama. ¶ If the party overcame the racially-charged protests of white female Clinton supporters, it will overcome the policy and service record -charged protests of Sanders supporters. Those same supporters, the data would suggest, are at least smart enough to distinguish between voting and holding politicians and parties accountable, despite the apparent inability of anyone writing from the mainstream media to grasp that subtlety.
My concern isn’t for Sanders supporters backing the nominee, however, since they make up such a small and comparatively inconsequential portion of the electorate. Post-DNC my concerns rest with unpacking the prevailing narrative and offering an alternative, without which, we really do risk losing the election. That loss will have zip to do with the minority-erasing mirage of #BernieBros supposedly poisoning the well. ¶ The New York Times published an interactive infographic breakdown of electoral engagement. The picture it paints is stark and demonstrates that whatever other symptoms we observe, America’s primary illness is a dearth of democracy. We don’t need less — as some liberals quip, stupidly mind-boggled that anyone would vote for T____, we need more. ¶ According to the Times, 9 per cent of the population, 14 per cent of eligible adults, voted to nominate T____ and Clinton as the only choices for the highest executive office in a country of 324 million people. Nix 103 million children, felons, and non-citizens. ¶ What are we left with? The 88 million people who don’t vote. The 73 million people that didn’t vote in the primaries, but will vote in the general election. Additionally, the 60 million people who voted in the primaries, 30 million for each party. A paltry 5 percent of the eligible voting public chose Clinton, and 4 per cent elected T____.
Not only are the nominees unrepresentative of the parties that nominated them (28 per cent of eligible voters each identify as partisan Democrats and Republicans), but they are hugely unrepresentative of the 42 per cent of Americans who identify as non-partisan independents regardless of actual party affiliation. In terms of leaning, independents are split nearly equally, giving Democrats and Republicans a total possible voting bloc of 43 percent of the eligible voters, each. ¶ Obviously there will be bleeding at the boundaries. Certainly there will be third party voters on the fringes. Our concern, however, should be with the unprecedented unfavorability of BOTH candidates and the very small pocket of active support they have compared to the population at large.
But, but, but, if you don’t vote, you don’t have a say!? Get over it! What a pretentious, insensitive, and miserly thing to say. TRULY. Get over yourself, kindly, and extract your head from your noxious aphorism-expellant anal cavity, your brain appears to be suffocating. ¶ When we’re talking about more than 160 million of our fellow citizens, protestations of laziness, apathy, and spurned responsibility is a non-explanation that jives with little else we know about our nation and its people. ¶ Slothfulness is not an explanation. Carelessness is not an explanation. Undutifulness is not an explanation. They are also piss poor excuses to lord yourself over the electorally disillusioned.
Be glad you are deluded enough to make some modicum of effort at democracy. Be happy in your fools’ hope. Too many across this nation haven’t the advantage of delusional self-aggrandizement. I have voted straight-ballot Democrat since I was eligible to vote in every election. Do you know what that makes me? A fool. And I’ll do it yet again in November. Because I’m a fool. ¶ Due to an unholy confluence of Republican gerrymandered redmapping — which redistricted the electoral map in favor of Republican majorities during the last census — and the utter failure of Democrats to develop an on-the-ground, grassroots organization and a proactive fifty state strategy, we’re royally f—ked. We didn’t get a “shellacking” as Obama said of the midterms, we got e-fâ—kin’-viserated. We have not risen to the challenge and done anything to meaningfully change course. ¶ So, fortress liberalism is it. Let’s make sure we don’t lose our only holdout, that bastion of motionlessness, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. From there we can at least keep government at a standstill, prevent Republican retrenchments of social programs, and further a pro-corporate agenda spun flatteringly as faithful resistance and incremental progress.
The truth is that the disenchantment of voters is rooted in reality, the lived experiences of a people ravaged by an aloof and unconcerned elite — an intractable alliance of New York money, Washington power, and Ivy League professionals — for whom the voices of the plebeians are useful instruments to self-serving ends. When Princeton University’s Gilens & Page found that,
The preferences of the average American [90 per cent] appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy
…they were merely echoing the more than forty-years of accumulated gut-feelings: You’re vote doesn’t matter, whatever the numerical totals. Democrats and Republicans will both further the policies that monied interests pay for not what constituents vote for. ¶ And so it is, ours is an electoral malaise, wrought in justifiable despair at the erosion of sovereignty, the unrepresentativeness of ours representatives, the ever widening chasm of inequitable wealth distribution rubber-stamped by a government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations. ¶ People don’t stay away from the ballot box because they don’t care, they stay away because the system is corruption-riddled, deeply undemocratic, and their votes have “near-zero” impact. They are the enervate masses, worn down by do-nothingness whoever holds the legislatures. ¶ The popularity of T____, rooted in this angst, is an anomalous exception to this narrative, POSSIBLY threatening the Republic’s very existence. Unfortunately, we are so attuned to the uselessness of our vote that non-voters may all too easily conflate the risk T____ poses with the do-nothing establishment that incestuously spawns its own perpetuation in spite of us.
It will come as no surprise, I hope, that Clinton — who represents this worldview of sequestered backroom elite power brokerage — only finds appeal in that well-to-do, college-educated, gainfully-employed, self-segregated fifth of the population least impacted by the economic desperation and political alienation afflicting most Americans.
Democrats need to stop saying things are “great.” They’re not. They need to stop using the GDP and employment stats as QUALITATIVE measures of public welfare. They need to stop capitalizing on the hopeful optimism of Americans, despite their working knowledge that things are not all that well at home. They need to try, desperately try to earn back the honorable title, “Party of the People,” because they’re not and they haven’t been for quite some time.
I could go on and on about other political mind-mumblings including, but not limited to: I. How frustrating it is when the stakes are so damn high that Clinton lied right out the convention door about FBI Director Comey’s testimony regarding her email server; II. The miserable extent to which the 2016 DNC received more private corporate sponsorship this year in Philadelphia than ever before; III. How T____ is not a fascist and we need to be careful about using these words so heavy with the tragedies of history; IV. How criticizing T____’s mannerisms and speech are unhelpful, self-important therapy for people who can’t focus their myopic vision on what’s really going on; V. How Democrats self-importantly screech on and on against T____’s gross indignity toward Khizr and Ghazala Khan and yet Democrats are ironically implicated in continuing a dubious foreign policy that has resulted in the deaths of innumerable Muslim civilians, not to mention, they just nominated its lifelong warhawk champion; VI. Or, how Democrats are “proud” when they stage a hokey bit of political theater — an activist-appropriated sit-in, for instance — in congress and in their press statements to protest Republican obstructionism on gun control, but the Obama administration has been the most prolific arms supplier on record.
I could go on, but I mustn’t. Until again, adieu.